CNN’s ‘Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy’: veni, vidi, Tucci

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Photo Courtesy of CNN

“Searching for Italy” airs on CNN Sundays at 9 p.m.

Gabrielle Abdelmessih, Staff Reporter

The first episode of CNN’s newest travel series, “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy,” aired on Valentine’s Day. The show, consisting of six episodes, features Italy’s different regions and highlights the breadth of Italian cuisine, the nuances of Italian identity and the country’s ancient history.

In the first episode, Tucci visits Naples to try the original pizza, freshest mozzarella and genuine San Marzano tomatoes. He also travels to the Amalfi Coast and dines in restaurants overlooking the coastline and its famous cerulean waters. I mean, I had to include a “The Devil Wears Prada” reference somewhere. The second episode offers a tour of Rome and a historical analysis of pasta you never knew you needed.

The food and picturesque scenery will give viewers serious FOMO, but during a time in which traveling to far-off places isn’t even an option, watching someone else eat delicious pasta from your living room couch is the next best thing. If only “smellivision” existed.

This is not the typical touristy show. In fact, Italy’s most famous landmarks serve as a backdrop. The people of Italy and the food they make are the focus. Each episode features interviews with historians, culinary experts and small business owners. A modern and necessary perspective is provided.

It should also be noted that Stanley Tucci is the perfect gastronomic guide for this series. The well-known actor went viral on social media at the beginning of the pandemic for sharing videos demonstrating his mixology skills — I can see why. He is charming, gracious, and makes the audience feel as if we are right there with him.

His culinary curiosity and genuine appreciation for the opportunities he had were apparent.

Tucci, Italian on both sides, conversed in Italian and added personal anecdotes from previous visits in voice-overs throughout the episode which enhanced the viewing experience. While Stanley Tucci is no Anthony Bourdain, he is pretty darn close.

My only complaint is that it appears as though some filming took place in a time where the pandemic became an ever-looming threat, but it’s barely mentioned.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Italy was one of the top global epicenters of the disease. It would be interesting to learn about how the country has changed since then. “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy” was just renewed for a second season, so maybe it will be more of a primary focus in future episodes.

Much like a chef skilled at his art, Tucci layers flavor upon flavor, creating a masterfully complicated metaphorical dish. Yet, each ingredient can be savored and appreciated. Italy is shown as the complex, multi-faceted, and iconic place it is. Showing off both the greatness and the grit. The sublime and the suffering.

“Searching for Italy” airs Sundays on CNN at 9 p.m.

Rating: 4/5 stars